Song of the Telegraph (2010)
Ian Dicke, composer

I. Across the Wires
II. Song of the Clouds
III. Bluebird's Halo

University of Memphis Wind Ensemble
Albert T. Nguyen, Conductor
October 11, 2011

When Samuel Finley Breese Morse (1791-1872) invented the electromagnetic telegraph system in the 1830s, he could not have anticipated how its technological advances might be reinterpreted artistically in the next century. Another inventive spirit, Charles Ephraim Burchfield (1893-1967), drew inspiration from both the system’s physical appearance and the sounds emanating from miles of telegraph wires strung on wooden poles along country roads. A masterwork of synesthesia, Song of the Telegraph (1917-52) personifies Burchfield’s highly receptive mind that could translate auditory stimuli into incredible visual representations.

Song of the Telegraph (2010) is in three continuous movements, each addressing a different aspect of Burchfield’s painting. The first movement, Across the Wires, features a series of undulating textures pitted against an energetic tapping motive, not unlike the visual rhythm of Burchfield’s humming telegraph wires. Song of the Clouds introduces long, legato phrases that weave together into a series of passing clouds, each gathering greater intensity until reaching a stormy climax. A piccolo solo introduces the final movement, Bluebird’s Halo. Although a somewhat hidden feature of the painting, the diminutive bluebird perched on the fence encompassed by a golden halo strikes out against the surrounding darkness. The orchestration brightens, as a simple tune becomes the basis for revisiting the first movement’s ‘telegraph’ motive.

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